The browser you are using is not supported. Please consider using a modern browser.

Skip Navigation
Back to the Home page Dragon Boat Races '23 | MD Return of the Dragons Return of the Dragons
Dragon Boats presented by
Presented by
Start of main content.

12th Biennial Dragon Boat Races

Hear the drums. See the waves. Feel the energy! More than 20 teams paddle for glory after months of preparation. Welcome to the 2023 Dragon Boat Races!
Join us on September 9 to share in the excitement and root for our racers. Teams will practice for 8 weeks leading up to Race Day at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Thousands of spectators will witness several hours of crazy competition.

Getting to the Races & Festival

View Traffic Alerts

Race Schedule

Time and location of races and festival are weather permitting

  • 8am
    Blessing of the Boats Blessing of the Boats
  • 8:30am
    Races Begin Races Begin
  • 2:00pm
    Races Finish Races Finish
  • 2:30pm
    Award Ceremony (on Festival Stage) Award Ceremony
    on Festival Stage

Get involved! View race and festival news on Facebook or support your favorite Dragon Boat Team with the 2023 Paddler Challenge.

The Race Teams

Some of Baltimore’s most philanthropic companies build teams to paddle together for victory and to support Catholic Charities programs.
  • Presenting Sponsor

  • Platinum Sponsors

  • Gold Sponsor

  • Team Sponsors

    • Archdiocese of Baltimore
    • DAP Global Inc.
    • PNC Bank
    • T. Rowe Price
  • Non-Profit Team Sponsors

    • The Annie E. Casey Foundation
    • Catholic Charities
    • Catholic Relief Services
    • Mayor’s Office (City of Baltimore)
    • Sheppard Pratt
  • Club Teams

    • John Hopkins University Dragon Boat Club
  • Underwriters

    • Echo Communicate, Inc.
    • Wells Fargo

History of Dragon Boat Racing

Dragon Boat racing is a reflection of a memorable historical event that occurred more than 2,000 years ago. Numerous supremacy wars were erupting during the fourth century B.C. when Emperor Chu’s kingdom was one of the mightiest remaining. It is a story of self-sacrifice.

A man of great respect, Qu Yuan, a poet, minister and counselor to Emperor Chu, was cast into exile because of his politically sensitive poems. Distraught and inconsolable, Qu Yan grasped a large stone and threw himself into the Mi Lo River in an act of desperation and sorrow. His last poem can be translated:

Many a heavy sigh I have in my despair, Grieving that I was born in such an unlucky time. I yoked a team of jade dragons to a phoenix chariot, And waited for the wind to come, to soar up on my journey

Qu Yuan was loved so by the people that local fisherman raced to the tragic scene in their long, swift boats, beating their drums and splashing their oars to scare the many fish away from his body. They threw also tossed rice into the river some say in an attempt to protect Qu Yuan’s body from the fish and others to feed his soul.

Dragon Boat Festivals are held in China on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar, the same day Qu Yuan is said to have drowned himself in the Mi Lo River. Many of the original rituals are still practiced today at festivals all over the world. As part of the opening ceremonies, a common practice is to “Awaken the Dragon” by dotting the eyes of the Dragon’s heads of each of the boats. Historically, the Dragon was the favored symbol of the Emperor, and the best Chinese artists were commissioned. Shortly after one such artist put the finishing touches on his work by etching the eyes on his exquisite stone Dragon, thunder and turbulent weather swept the land. It was believed the mythical beast was “awakened” and had “come to life.” Also, the significance of the eye dotting was to impress the boats and their crews with the strength of the Dragon and the blessing of the Goddess of the Sea.